Tips for dressing up at-home meals

By Jenni Wolf

In this new pandemic age of working from home, schooling at home and just all-around staying at home, we also are all eating at home more now than ever.

While options to dine out have increased over the summer, we are now moving into chillier months and may see those options limited again as we lose the outdoor friendly warmth of the season. Add in the fact that we all may not have the budget to dine out, or feel comfortable doing so in these times, home-cooked meals may look bleak, feel redundant and leave us unsatisfied.

Still, nourishing meals at home are important for our bodies, minds and souls in pursuing health and wellness and, let’s face it, can provide a way to find some joy these days. Read on below for a few of my favorite, simple ways to elevate any meal at home.

• Make a copycat recipe: Craving that warm naan from your favorite Indian place? Make it an afternoon baking project. Love the local coffee shop’s scones? Try baking your own at home. It may even pay to ask if the recipe can be shared!

• Purchase product: Many restaurants sell goods such as condiments, dry bread mixes, prepared or frozen entrees (Colossal Café pot pies, anyone?!), pizza dough, coffee and tea blends that you can purchase and add to meals at home.

• Prepare an appetizer and dessert: We all probably have a bit more time on our hands now too—spend that time preparing a few additions to your meal or incorporate happy hour with a fun cheeseboard to re-create the three course experience you may miss from dining out. Adding a fun drink or dessert takes things up a notch, too!

• Select with the seasons: Many local restaurants use the seasons to guide their menus. Do the same to inspire your make-at-home meals and visit the farmers market to pick up in-season produce. I’m thinking pumpkin chili, stuffed acorn squash and apple crisp.

• Channel your inner chef: Think like a chef and notice the extras that elevate a restaurant meal. Is it the homemade salad dressing? The honey butter for the rolls? Or the freshly made salsa? Whip up one of these extras to transform mundane meals into something more. These things might sound complicated but are easy to make. My favorite one for fall is a simple compound butter—soften a stick of butter and mix in a few tablespoons of your favorite herbs + garlic. Store it in the fridge and use it all week on bread, potatoes, rice—anything!

I would be remiss if I also didn’t remind and encourage us all to give ourselves a night or two off from the kitchen and to support our local, neighborhood establishments through takeout or delivery when able, as they are a valuable part of our community—and need us just as much as we need and enjoy them!

Jenni Wolf is a member of the Como neighborhood and a practicing, registered dietitian in the community who is passionate about helping others achieve a positive and balanced relationship with food.

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